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Navigating Holidays

Holidays seem to arrive sooner and sooner these days!  Did you notice that Costco had eggnog on sale in September and Christmas trees on display since early October?!  And pumpkin spice lattes were rolled out in August and September at coffee shops?!

Now that we’re at the start of November, many of us are making or finalizing plans for upcoming holidays such as Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Christmas, and Kwanzaa.  We may be planning menus or purchasing gifts and decorations or making travel arrangements.  And for many of us, holidays also mean time with immediate and extended family.

I’d like to share some encouragement on Navigating Holidays.

As you may already know, I’m part of a blended family.  Both my husband and I had children before we married (we do not have any children together).  I also grew up in a blended family, so I have a keen awareness that planning for holidays can be a logistical challenge.  And my immediate family now includes adult children (although we’re still in denial about their adulthood!).  So we’re also navigating split holidays as they choose to share holiday time with their significant others and their families.

Celebrating holidays can be challenging for families like mine.  And maybe for yours too.  For many of us, including those in blended families or those who live far away from their families, the holidays do not always represent happy and joy-filled times with loved ones.

Let me explain by providing some history.  My parents divorced when I was young, so my earliest recollections of the holidays did not involve my family being all together.  Consequently, my siblings and I often split time on holidays between our parents.  For example, we would spend Christmas Eve with my dad and his new family, and then we would spend Christmas Day with my mom.  But some years we went to Florida to see my paternal grandparents, so we didn’t see our mom for Christmas at all…

These experiences were very painful for my tender heart, because I wanted to be with both of my parents on holidays.

Fast-forward to my first marriage and subsequent divorce, when I found myself again splitting holidays.  This time, my son was the one traveling between his mom and dad.  As a mother, it was particularly difficult to spend a holiday away from my son.  I experienced debilitating depression and loneliness.  I wanted him to have both of his parents with him on holidays.  When my son was younger, I did join my ex-husband’s family a few times for Thanksgiving dinner or for the opening of Christmas gifts.

But as life moved on, sharing holidays became less feasible.

Even now, as part of a blended military family, we still face splitting holidays.  I really struggled the first Christmas when we didn’t have any of the children with us.  With all of my experiences with split holidays, I thought I was used to the difficulty of being away from loved ones for the holidays.  But the pain hit again.  Actually, the pain was even more crippling because I was not only apart from my son, but I was also apart from my bonus children as well.

Many emotions swirl around our blended family, as we navigate holidays.  If we have the kids with us, we experience excitement and joy.  But that excitement is tempered by the knowledge that the other biological parent is without the kids and may be sad.  When we don’t have the kids with us, we experience sadness and loneliness.

Having said that, our times without the kids remind us to treasure the holidays we do spend with them.  For the kids, I appreciate how they make sure to communicate often with the parent they are not spending the holiday with.  Hearing from them helps to lessen the sadness and loneliness.

What challenges is your family facing this holiday season?

Maybe this is your first holiday season with new family dynamics due to divorce, marriage, death, geographical move, etc.  Or maybe your loved one is deployed overseas for their military duty.  Maybe finances aren’t sufficient to allow for a cross-country trip.  Or maybe travel isn’t ideal due to the on-going pandemic.  Maybe you want to avoid toxic family dynamics.

Regardless of the challenges your family may be facing this holiday season, I want to encourage you with the words of Philippians 4:4“Always be full of joy in the Lord.  I say it again—rejoice!”  This verse offers an important reminder—we can choose to be joyful, even in the midst of less-than-ideal circumstances.

Although holidays are not always happy, we can still find reasons to rejoice! 

Whether you’re experiencing new family dynamics or old family drama, you can still be full of joy!  For my blended family, we are learning to choose joy.  Whether we have our children with us or not, we are choosing to rejoice in the holidays.

We can also rejoice in an opportunity to slow down (1) to express gratitude to God for our many blessings during Thanksgiving, (2) to celebrate the birth of our Savior during Christmas, (3) to acknowledge the miracle of light during Hanukkah, and (4) to observe the cultural gifts of Kwanzaa, to name a few.

What reasons can you find to rejoice this holiday season?

Maybe you can look forward to creating new holiday traditions with new family members.  Or maybe you can look forward to sharing old family traditions with your immediate family.  Maybe you can look forward to trying new recipes to wow your family.  Or maybe you can explore holiday displays or events in the area where you’ll be spending the holidays.

As you navigate the holidays this year—whether you’re experiencing new family dynamics or old family drama, I pray you’re able to find reasons to rejoice!

Holiday image of family at Christmas time in 2017Holiday image of family at Thanksgiving 2018 Holiday image of children at Christmas time 2019

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